Commentary

Web Video Companies Defend 'Binge On' To FCC

A dozen small Web companies are urging the Federal Communications Commission to give its blessing to T-Mobile's controversial "Binge On" program.

"Binge On has been good for us and it is exactly the kind of program the Commission should support," Baeble Music, Kidoodle.TV, Toon Goggles and nine other Binge On participants say in a letter sent to the FCC this week.

Binge On, a zero-rating introduced by T-Mobile last year, exempts video offered by more than 100 companies from customers' data caps. T-Mobile says the service is popular with customers; the company recently told the FCC that consumers have streamed over 500 million hours of free videos since Binge On debuted, and that 92% of customers say they intend to watch more videos.

But the service, which is turned on by default, also has sparked concern among net neutrality advocates. One problem, according to advocates, is that T-Mobile also is throttling video streams offered by all companies -- not only participants -- to 1.5 Mbps, which is too slow for HD video. T-Mobile customers who don't want their streams throttled must affirmatively opt out of Binge On.

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Advocates also argue that broadband providers shouldn't give preferential treatment to any Web companies. "T-Mobile's policy gives special treatment to video providers that work with them. What if every ISP did this, but in a different way?" Northeastern University researcher David Choffnes, who recently authored a critical study, reportedly said recently. "In such a world, the next Netflix, Hulu, or Pied Piper might never get off the ground because keeping up with ISPs and their policies would leave them chasing their tails."

Wheeler initially said that Binge On appeared to be innovative, but also said the agency was taking a wait-and-see approach to the service. The FCC subsequently asked T-Mobile for more information about the service.

For their part, Baeble Music and the other companies that wrote to the FCC this week say Binge On spurs consumers "to watch more video and to try new services, including small and competitive services such as ours."

The companies add: "Participation in the Binge On platform has greatly increased the visibility and exposure for our services, increasing both the overall number of viewers and the number of hours viewed by consumers."

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